Reds country may not be able to enjoy the same type of baseball in October that comes with the thrill of the postseason. However, there is still some exciting baseball to be played that can play a crucial role in the future of the Reds.
The Reds instructional league may be coming to a close over the weekend, but the Arizona Fall League is just beginning with several top prospects participating. The instructional league has been particularly interesting because it has been the beginning of the experiment with Nick Senzel in center field who has been rehabbing from his finger surgery.
Senzel and the Instructional League
It is widely known that Reds’ top prospect Senzel needs to be on the big league roster as soon as possible, but there has not been a position available for him. Senzel playing center field would be a huge upgrade for the Reds offense compared to taking over for Scooter Gennett or Eugenio Suarez in the infield.
On Wednesday night C. Trent Rosecrans of The Athletic tweeted about a conversation he had with Shawn Pender, the Reds Senior Director of Player Development. Pender said that he believes Senzel can play any position on the field, including the outfield and that he worked with former Reds stars Eric Davis and Reggie Williams.
Senzel is an athlete and a phenomenal one at that so there is no reason to doubt the words of Pender. Working with Davis and Williams will provide a boost in his development as well. The Reds already are increasing their payroll for the 2019 season, so it appears they are finally taking the rebuild a bit more serious. The next step is to move Senzel to center field. The defense of Billy Hamilton will be hard to match, but the offense of Senzel outweighs the hit the defense will more than likely take.
The Arizona Fall League: Players to Watch
In the Arizona Fall League, the Reds have four pitchers and four hitters. The offensive side of things will be the more exciting side to watch. The Reds have three of their top prospects, three, eight and 23 in Taylor Trammel, Shed Long and Alfredo Rodriguez.
It is hard for some to follow the AFL because of the lack of coverage, but that does not mean you cannot keep up to date with player performances. It is also a bonus to see how these players can handle what would essentially be a full season of work. Minor leaguers are usually done before October, so the extra work allows them to perform after a season’s worth of work.
At just 21 years old, Trammell is the 17th ranked prospect in the majors and rightfully so. He has excelled in both the field and at the plate. Trammell already has a Future’s Game MVP under his belt after clubbing a home run and a triple that missed clearing the fence by just a few feet. He spent his season in Daytona but is sure to be getting a promotion in 2019.
Tuesday night Trammell made his debut in the AFL. He went hitless in three at-bats with a walk and an RBI as well. In his first at-bat, he crushed the ball but he hit it to the wrong spot, unfortunately. Trammell said he felt comfortable after his first game and the 35th pick in 2016 will be the player to follow most throughout the AFL.
Trammell made his second appearance batting leadoff for the Scottsdale Scorpions on Thursday. In his six plate appearances, he went 1-5 with a walk. Despite the slow start on the stat sheet, the key for Trammell is getting the reps needed. His stats are sure to turn around as the AFL progresses.
Long will be the next most exciting player to follow in the AFL. Long was drafted in the 12th round in 2013 and has been working his way up in the organization since. He spent 2018 in Pensacola and produced a solid season. Long’s biggest problem is that he plays second base, Senzel moving to the outfield will help his path to the majors though. If he continues to produce he should see the Major League roster soon than later.
Wednesday night Long made his AFL debut batting leadoff and managed to reach base three times. Long had one hit in four at-bats, but was able to add on two walks as well. He also was able to swipe third base which led to him eventually scoring. He drove in two runs with a line drive single in the third inning and added a third RBI on a walk in the seventh.
Long was one of Barry Larkin’s students over the winter at what they call “B-Lark University,” where Larkin has mentored baseball stars such as Francisco Lindor, Dee Gordon, Reds’ Jesse Winker, as well as top prospects Nick Gordon and Edwin Rios. Long’s dedication to improvement and the success that has come with it makes him a promising prospect that will make him one of the most exciting infielders in the AFL.
The third player on the Reds top prospect list in the AFL is Rodriguez. The Cuban shortstop struggled in 2018 across three different minor league levels. What makes him an intriguing prospect to follow is to see if he can figure it out in the fall and become the player the Reds hoped they were signing in 2016.
Rodriguez was number six on the top 30 international prospects list at the time of the deal that made him a Red, but has struggled since arriving in the states. Rodriguez has appeared in two games so far in the AFL. In his debut game, he was held hitless, going 0-3, but had a solid second outing. Thursday night Rodriguez batted ninth, but churned out two hits and a walk in his five plate appearances.
Out of the four Reds pitchers, they have only totaled two innings, but as previously stated, the key players to watch are at the plate, not on the mound. While this is not the type of baseball Reds fans hoped to follow in October, Trammell, Long and Rodriguez could all be significant factors in the Reds future to help them play meaningful October baseball.